Jamelle Bouie reported this morning, Why Immigration Reform May Not Help the GOP. The point of the article is that the president tends to get credit for policies like immigration reform. Thus Republicans understandably ask, “What’s in it for us?” This, of course, is the wrong way to think about it.
As I’ve argued before, immigration reform is necessary but not sufficient with regard to the Republican desire to get Latinos to vote for them. And here’s the part that really sucks for Republicans: immigration reform is the easy part. The biggest hurdle is the Republican economic platform: as a class, Latinos are poor. Thus, the Republican Party really needs to get away from its focus of trickle down economics. The Republicans have rightfully become known as the party of the rich and no amount of pretty words are going to change that.
Some Republicans are arguing that immigration reform is a losing issue for them because the 11 million new citizens it would eventually create will overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats. Although such statements are self-fulfilling, there is much truth. The party really needs to ask itself, “If we aren’t willing to make fundamental changes in our policy, what is the point of courting Latinos at all?” And I think this is where the party will be for the immediate future.
Eventually, the Republican brand will do so badly on the national level that even the party base will see that their politicians need to pander to Latinos. Once this happens, the Republican Party will be willing to do long-term strategizing. But as long as the party can hang onto most of its current power, they will continue on as before. Even then, I only see changes around the edges. And I don’t think that’s enough. They are chasing a moving target—salivating over Bush’s 44% Latino vote in 2004. But over time, “losing by less” is not a strategy for success.
Given all of this, I don’t see the Republican Party agreeing to immigration reform, unless something strange happens. (For example: John Boehner could decide to retire and so allow the House to pass a bill with mostly Democratic votes.) There is no immediate upside to doing so (Latinos aren’t going to vote for them anyway); but there is an immediate downside (the Republican base won’t turn out in high numbers). Unless they are prepared to make major changes to their platform, it doesn’t make sense for the Republican Party to reach out to minority groups. And thus: they won’t.